Using a learning contract to introduce undergraduates to research projects

Zelma Bone

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    113 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Many undergraduate Business programs aim to orient students to the research through a single-subject focussed on research design and conceptualisation. The focus of this paper is to case study a learning contract as it guides undergraduate students through a research project in a non-research methods subject and to determine the value of this process. The learning contract is a negotiated process between the learner and the academic supervisor. It is often the student's first foray into research so the staged guidelines provide supportive 'training wheels' and a detailed 'recipe' to follow. The process can be challenging for both parties as it is a scaffolded assessment with close monitoring and regular feedback. The contract has three distinct stages. The contract proposal is the first step and is where the student can choose their focus for project by articulating a learning goal and justifying why this goal is important. This is followed by the second stage of the contract which includes a literature review, reflections on readings and a detailed methodology. The final component is the learning in action (describing what they did), analysis and evaluation of their findings and a reflection on their learning. The many advantages of this assessment are it can be used in a variety of situations and with a diversity of learners; puts the students into the centre of the learning process; students can choose a learning goal that is relevant to their situation; and it can stimulate deep approaches to learning. The learning contract approach to completing a research project also develops the student's abilities in aspects of (mainly) qualitative research design and reflective practice. This paper draws on the author's 20 year experience of introducing students to research by using an assessment method that has gained positive feedback, strong student performance and high student progression.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)115-123
    Number of pages9
    JournalElectronic Journal of Business Research Methods
    Volume12
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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